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Why do they stay? – Part 2


This is Part 2 in a week-long series of posts written by a Wheelock College Social Work faculty member and two Masters in Social Work graduate students in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. View previous posts in this series – Part 1.

*Trigger warning: some of this article may include descriptions of domestic violence that could be distressing for some readers.

One client shared her story of how charming her abuser was in the beginning of the relationship. He would buy her flowers before each date, and as she was falling in love he invited her to move into his place. He told her he would provide for her and she could quit her job to raise her child. Once she moved in and quit her job he began putting her down. He would tell her she was a bad mother and a bad cook. He also began isolating her by telling her that her friends were trashy and they were not allowed to come to his apartment. Time goes by and the relationship is stable until the next incident. One night she is communicating with her child’s father and her abuser demands that he have access to her Facebook passwords and text messages because he thinks she is cheating on him. The fight escalates to a level where he punches her in the face so hard that he breaks her nose. She receives medical attention, but does not press charges because he comes in with flowers saying he is so sorry and it will never happen again. “If she just doesn’t talk to other guys they wouldn’t have to fight in the first place.” As time passes he minimizes what happened and another incident begins escalating. A neighbor calls the police and when they arrive they arrest him for assault and battery from when he broke her nose. While he is with the police she goes to the court to get a restraining order. When the trial comes she feels terrible that charges are being pressed against him, and his family is pressuring her not to go forward with this “because it will ruin his life.” She feels awful seeing this happen to someone she loves so much. She decides to get back together with him and drop all of the charges, including the restraining order in hopes that he will change so they can make their relationship better.

I chose to share this story because it highlights the predictable pattern of behaviors that abusers use to gain and maintain power and control over their intimate partner. Abusers can be extremely charming, and once they get their partner to fall in love with them they slowly begin engaging in subtle behaviors to control their partner. These behaviors increase in severity and frequency with time. The more an abuser can isolate and control their partner’s behaviors the easier it becomes for them to abuse their partner. In this story, she had lost all of her friends, so she had no one to turn to for support. She went back to her abuser because she had no where to go, she had no place of her own, she had no money to support her or her child, and she loved him and wanted to make things work. This story displays the various forms of abuse that impact a survivor and the variety of barriers they face when trying to leave an abusive partner.

Kate Kennedy
Wheelock College MSW Candidate

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Why do they stay? – Part 1

whydotheystayThis is Part 1 in a week-long series of posts written by a Wheelock College Social Work faculty member and two Masters in Social Work graduate students in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

*Trigger warning: some of this article may include descriptions of domestic violence that could be distressing for some readers.

For the past 20 years I have had the privilege of working with survivors of domestic violence in healthcare settings. Notably, Domestic Violence (DV) is also used interchangeably with Intimate Partner Violence in the behavioral research. In recognition of DV Month and the recent high-profile DV cases, we wanted to share our perspectives of DV, addressing the question “Why women stay”, and sharing stories from our social work practices. This article uses the word “his” to identify the abuser, however this is not to identify all abusers as male and acknowledge that the abuser is the person establishing and maintaining control in the relationship.

According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, the most apparent form of DV is physical and sexual assaults, however there is larger, systemic forms of abuse that the abuser uses to take control of the victim’s life. There are many examples of methods an abuser may implement to establish and maintain control over his partner. These particular patterns of intimidation firmly establish control in the relationship. As a practitioner it is emotionally difficult and often times discouraging when a victim makes the monumental decision to leave but later changes her mind. The complexity and multifaceted issues around this experience can be explained in understating both the patterns of abuse and also the quagmire of caring and loving someone who is also hurting you.

One method of control is the use of coercion and threats. The person who is doing the abusing is usually physically stronger and may often make physical threats such as, “If you leave, I will kill you.” Also, if the couple have children together, the children may be used as a method of control. An abuser may state, “I will take the kids from you if you leave.” It is important to understand these are very real threats. Important to recognize, the most dangerous time for a woman in a DV relationship is when she decides to leave. Much of the work I do with women is completing detailed safety plans due to the high risk of danger. My social work practice is in an urban hospital setting and there have been times when women have hid at the hospital as a starting point of their escape. One such time a woman was leaving with her toddler to New York City to return home to her mother. In my area there is a small bus company which transports customers for a reasonable rate. The bus driver actually picked her up at the hospital and she narrowly escaped. The partner did not know where she was but arrived at the hospital searching for her frantically. I remember feeling afraid, I can only imagine how she felt.

Still other methods of control are the use of intimidation such as displaying a weapon, and emotional abuse such as name calling, and isolation. Many of the victims have lost contact with their friends and family so they are not able to connect with prior support systems. Still another method is the use of minimizing, denying or blaming the abusive behavior on the victim. “If you did not do X, then I would not have hurt you.” Finally, there is economic abuse such as withholding any financial information to the victim and the use of male privilege. I recently worked with a woman who was not allowed out of the bedroom by her husband except when she cooked or cleaned. Also when she did make dinner, her husband belittled her and criticized her cooking abilities. These patterns firmly establish a psychological, emotional, and financial control in the relationship making it extremely challenging to leave. It is not as simple as what one may perceive. To better understand the complexities and barriers to exiting a DV relationship, two graduate MSW students will provide examples of survivors who they have worked with in a domestic violence agency.

Heather Howard, Ph.D.(c), LICSW,MSW
Wheelock College Social Work Instructor

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Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month


The month of November begins in seventeen days, with it bringing shorter daylight hours, colder temperatures, the promise of turkey and pumpkin pie, and of course, football. More important and potentially life-changing than all of these things, however, is National Novel Writing Month. Nanowrimo, as it is affectionately known, pits an author against the ultimate deadline; write 50,000 words in thirty days and call yourself an author.

afterworlds The protagonist of Scott Westerfeld’s new book Afterworlds is a Nanowrimo “winner.” Though the advance she receives for her book is enough to pay for college, she instead travels to New York City to complete her second novel and take the literary world by storm. One part contemporary realistic fiction, one part fantasy horror, and two parts meta-aware young adult novel, Afterworlds is a fun romp through the possibilities inherent in being an aspiring writer. Though I wouldn’t suggest dropping out of college to write YA, I do think you should read Afterworlds and use it to fuel your creative longings.

If you needed still more proof to sign up (which you shouldn’t), here is a list of my favorite novels produced during one (or more) Nanowrimo.  Read, and be inspired.


  1.        The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This caramel confection of a novel spent seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and won an Alex Award from the American Library Association in 2012.
  2.        Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. If you loved Eleanor and Park (or Harry Potter!) this book should be next on your list. Similar to Afterworlds, Rowell melds clever meta-aware fan fiction into her story that straddles the line into the emerging New Adult genre.
  3.        Losing Faith by Denise Jaden. At times a meditation on grief, at times a harrowing story of suspense, Jaden’s novel tells the story of protagonist Brie’s search for answers when her sister, Faith, falls to her death.
  4.        Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart. Olivia Bean heads to Hollywood to be on Jeopardy!  Never trivial, readers will cheer for Olivia as she navigates not just her obsession with facts, but with growing up as well. You might also want to check out Gephart’s Death by Toilet Paper.
  5.        Wool by Hugh Howey. For those who need their apocalyptic dystopian fix, Howey gives you humanity forced underground, away from the dangerously toxic land above. One person dares break the most important rule; he asks to go outside.


I understand if you want to read these books in December.  November is for writing.  Join me and sign up now!

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Banned Books Week (one week late)

Last week, bookstores, schools, and libraries around the country celebrated Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the “freedom to read.” While the idea of censorship may seem antiquated, more than 11,300 books have been challenged in the United States since the first Banned Books Week in 1982. You can learn more about frequently challenged books on the American Library Association’s website. Some challenges to books are exasperating. Others are alarming.

Take, for instance, what happened in Arizona. In 2010, a state law was passed that resulted in the banning, not only of books, but of an entire school curriculum. The law stated,BBW_vert_banner2

“A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in its program of instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following:

1.  Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
2.  Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3.  Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4.  Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

Following this legislation, the Tucson Unified School District dismantled its widely praised Mexican-American Studies program. In dismantling the program, officials removed hundreds of curriculum materials from schools and classrooms. Among the removed materials were books, including Rethinking Columbus: The next 500 years, Critical race theory, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  In 2013, following years of community protests and national outcry, the school district voted to un-ban several of the removed books.

Challenges to what we read and, consequently, censorship of what we think, persist. The antidote? Go ahead. Read. Encourage others to do the same. Don’t let anyone stop you.

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Learn to Do Just About Anything with LogoIf you’ve ever frantically Googled how to do something in a certain software program or wished you had a step-by-step guide to new programs, Wheelock has a great new resource for you available through the Earl Center. provides more than 2,400 online video courses on topics in technology for education, audio and video production, business, print and web design, programming, photography, and 3D and animation. courses are broken down into short videos of 10 minutes or less, narrated by professionals who take you through every step in the learning process. So you can do a complete course in one sitting, break it up by video or by chapter, or search for the specific task or topic without committing to a several hour course. All the tutorials include transcripts to help you follow along, and many options to adjust the speed of playback, toggle a pop-out window or bookmark specific points in a video. You can also use Lynda through their iOS and Android apps.

Lynda Screenshot

An example of the interface.

Not sure where to start? Check out some of the playlists our library staff members have created!

Tip: Click the “Save this playlist” button and log in to move the playlist to your personal account and watch at your leisure.

And of course, you can always explore on your own by selecting from the Databases A-Z tab on the library website. The summer is the perfect time to finally pursue that skill you’ve been telling yourself you’d learn!

Find great courses you think should be highlighted in a library playlist or a research guide? Comment below or send us an email.

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